Do you know the difference between food habits and cravings

Food Craving vs. Food Habit: How to tell the difference

How can you tell if the food you’re craving is a true craving and not just something you’ve trained yourself to eat? A craving isn’t something that happens every day. In fact, it may only happen once in a blue moon. For example, every once in a while I’ll get a mean craving for orange juice. It’s not something I even keep in my refrigerator, but sometimes I just have to have it! That’s a true craving.

Food habits can disguise themselves as cravings and are often used as an excuse to eat the desired food. “I’m craving chocolate”, you may say. But, if you eat chocolate every day, chances are it’s not a true craving—you’ve simply built a habit out of eating chocolate. I have a 5-ounce (ok, 7-ounce) glass of red wine most nights of the week, and it’s safe to say it isn’t something that I’m craving…otherwise it could be a problem! I’ve built it into my daily dietary routine and it has become a habit.

If you’re craving a food, it’s best to eat a small portion of the real thing instead of trying to mask it with a healthier food. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, don’t eat grapes! Instead, nibble on a couple of bites of dark chocolate, such as Go RAW or Taza 85% Dark chocolate. In my experience, the quickest way to eating an entire bag of grapes is to attempt to satisfy a true chocolate craving with grapes. It just doesn’t work. And in the end, you wind up eating the chocolate anyway!

If you’ve built a food habit and it’s a controlled habit—such as eating a handful of potato chips every day versus the entire bag—then there’s nothing to worry about. Depending on your health goals, you could decide to make it a healthier habit by choosing a sprouted whole grain tortilla chip (i.e. Way Better Snacks Multigrain Tortilla Chips) and eat the potato chips every once in a while.

The bottom line: If it’s a food craving, satisfy the craving with a small portion of the real thing. If it’s a food habit, evaluate if the habit is causing harm and make responsible adjustments.

Melanie Jatsek RD, LD
Melanie Jatsek is a registered dietitian with over 15 years of experience in the health and wellness field. She is a published author of two books and Heinen’s Corporate Wellness Specialist. Her mission is to help you build the healthy body you were meant to live in…without dieting!

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